KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli has often said free agency is a flawed way to build a team, where players available are often overpriced or on the downward side of their careers.
Sure, it's always necessary to sign a couple guys to plug holes, but Pioli would much rather draft the right guys, develop them from within the organization, and generate the kind of stability that has made franchises such as the Pittsburgh Steelers the model of NFL success.
Problems arise when you don't draft the right guys, though.
The result can be a 1-8 record.
"It's never just one thing. It's always just a combination and a total," said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, who's been a part of sustainable success with the Patriots and Giants.
"It's drafting. It's developing players. It's coaching players — it is players taking ownership. It's the whole gamut," Crennel said. "When you talk about an organization being a solid, good organization, all of those things are involved in it."
This year provides numerous examples.
The Indianapolis Colts managed to secure the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, spent it on former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, and are now making a run at the playoffs after having the league's worst record. Luck is one of the favorites for offensive rookie of the year.
But just about everyone assumed Luck would be a star in the league, and that the Colts had no choice but to take him with the first overall selection.
Perhaps a better example of drafting to success is Cincinnati.
The Chiefs' opponent on Sunday was just 4-12 in 2010, the third time in four years the Bengals had a losing record. Their first two picks the following year were spent on A.J. Green, who has developed into one of the best wide receivers in the league, and Andy Dalton, the former TCU quarterback who slipped to the second round and has emerged as one of that draft's gems.
Together, the pass-catching combination helped the Bengals to a 9-7 finish and a berth in the playoffs last season. The Bengals are 4-5 after beating the Giants on Sunday, and with their next five games against teams below .500, they could make another run at the postseason.
"Guys have to mature into their jobs," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "Basically for anything to be successful, you have to get your job done. That's the key: 11 guys believing in each other and getting their job done."